kids and the hard work of the middle.

If you’ve been reading my writing long, this phrase might be familiar to you by now: the hard work of the middle.

It comes from one of my favorite books, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, in which Donald Miller suggests (to over simplify it) that our lives are like a story.

And, more importantly, whether this story I live is a good one is entirely up to me and the choices I make.

As for the hard work of the middle, you can find the larger passage HERE, but, in short, Miller says this:

The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined.  The point of a story is never about the ending, remember.  It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.

I was reminded of this concept again this week during a moment in which Jake and I were paddling especially hard but feeling like our boat wasn’t moving any closer to the shore.

Kids, amiright?

We’re in the thick of the hard work, and we exchange at least one high-five a day because we’re so proud of ourselves for not giving up.

(Also, we just really like high-fives. Big whoop.)

Parenting, I’m realizing, comes with an overwhelming sense of pressure. Because, not only are we trying to write and live the best stories we can for ourselves through the murky waters of the middle, we’re also charged with penning the opening chapters of our kids’ lives.

Eventually they will take the pen into their own hands, but for now, it’s almost entirely up to us.

The words we speak to them. The attention we offer them. The expectations we set for them.

These are the days which set the course for all the ones to follow.

girls-fenceThey won’t remember these years with the detail I know Jake and I will, but the importance of the foundation we set for them now is not lost on me.

Parenting toddlers can be defeating. So many nights I’m left dwelling on the things I shouldn’t have said, the ways I mismanaged situations, or the issues I haven’t yet been able to solve.

And, while I believe Jake and I are doing a pretty good job at this whole parenting gig (high-ten for good measure), I also know that we do fail on a daily basis.

Oh the things I already wish I could erase from their books.

But there’s hope. There’s always hope when you look in the right places, and I’m reminded today of these words from Psalm 73:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Thankfully, my kids don’t have to rely on my strength alone when it comes to these early chapters.

They will certainly see our flaws and failures as we walk through our respective narratives, but I can only hope that through those moments, they also see the promised strength of God and His renewed mercies each day.

And that’s worth an infinite number of high-fives, if you ask me.

remember-the-lord-who-is-great-and-awesome-and-fight-for-your-brothers-your-sons-your-daughters-your-wives-and-your-homes

i’m in love with summer.

Summer, you are exactly what we needed. It feels a little hypocritical, really, because a few weeks ago, I wrote about a life of long hours and time spent apart. Now, here we are nearing the end of a month in which Jake has been home with us far more than he has been away.

This is something I will not take for granted.

It’s funny though. Seasons of relative ease always leave me feeling a little anxious (to which Jake would surely reply, “Well, that’s not hard to do.”). We are becoming pros at readjusting our routines and rhythms every four weeks, but that still doesn’t make it any easier to go from what we’ve got going now back into the real world demands of shift work and long days.

To put it plainly, I think summer is spoiling me.water.jpg

When I start to get all angsty and tightly wound about it (again, not hard to do), I try to remind myself that each season has something good to offer even if some seasons you have to dig deeper to unearth that good.

But here we are, living presently in a four week season in which the good stuff is staring us square in the face.

For instance, Jake and I took the girls to a castle the other day (yes, a CASTLE). While we were there, I sent my mom a picture of Jake and the girls, and she reminded me of how good this life is that we’re building together.castle2.jpg

She re-centered me without realizing it and reminded me that I bear a great responsibility to try my best to live all our days well. To create experiences for our girls in which they feel well-loved and important. In this season and the next and in all the ones that follow.

So with that in mind, here’s to now. To a summer filled with family and friends and unexpected visitors who show up on our doorstep here in Cleveland. To watermelon stained sun-dresses and bags of fresh cherries that I ‘forget’ to share with the girls. To plastic pools, sprinklers, and splash pads. To homegrown tomatoes and functioning air-conditioning on days like today.

We try to live all our days well around here, but today I am just especially thankful for the ones in which that comes a bit more easily.